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Transformative by Design? Unpacking Serious Games for Social Change

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Konstantin Mitgutsch, PhD, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab

Friday, January 27, 2012 10-11:30 AM, EV 6.735

Once upon a time games were mainly played for enjoyment and to engage players in social, physical and cultural activities. But in the last several years a new trend of designing serious games with “serious purposes” arose. These games claim to raise awareness about social and political issues such as inequity, injustice, poverty, racism, sexism, exploitation, oppression, teach about global problems, and reach specific purposes beyond pure entertainment. Some of these games even aim at changing the world. But what are the specific attributes of serious games? Do these games really have an impact on their players? And what insights do we have about the limits and potentials of serious games to transform their players?

In this talk I will focus on the questions of what serious games are, what their potential might be and where they reach their instructional limit. From an educational point of view the theoretical basis behind the term “serious games” will be introduced and the narrative behind “games for change” will be deconstructed. In addition to that, limits and potentials of serious games and their design will be exemplified and empirical findings about serious games and their impact will be discussed. Finally, future challenges and best practice examples will be highlighted.